Sunday, November 3, 2013

Do Your Recipes Measure Up?

When a very positively reviewed cookie, cake, or other pastry recipe and gets an atypically bad appraisal, it can often be traced back to flour measuring technique, or lack there of. I did this video a few years ago to illustrate the point, and since we’re heading into holiday baking season, I thought it’d be a great time to review.

This isn’t to say that people don’t occasionally post recipes with ingredient errors [clears throat nervously], but if a cookie gets mostly rave reviews, and yet you thought it was a little dense, there’s a chance it could be this common culprit. Anyway, this clip shows you why weight is better, and also how to properly measure by volume. Enjoy!

14 comments:

redforever said...

Climate and humidity has to be taken into account when weighing flour.

I live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, west of Calgary, at about 4500 feet elevation.

Our climate is dry...meaning my flour has less moisture than normal...or in other words, my flour is drier than normal.

What it all boils down to is that an identical quantity of my flour weighs less than the same quantity of someone else's flour.

So then to weigh say 4.3 ounces of flour, I actually have to add more flour than normal because my flour is lighter (because it has less moisture).

And that is why I rarely weigh my ingredients with baking. I would have to add more flour to get the weight right and then the cookie, cake, whatever, would be dry and dense.

I do have some bread recipes where I weigh the dry ingredients but I usually find that I have to compensate by adding more liquid to get the right texture for the dough.

That is fine if one is an experienced bread maker and you know what the final dough should look and feel like.

But if you are a novice and run across problems such as mine, you can quickly be disillusioned and turned off with poor results and say "My bread never seems to work out".

For cookies and cakes, I compensate by using jumbo sized eggs instead of standard large eggs.

blogagog said...

Good info. What about brown sugar? Do you know how much a cup of packed brown sugar should weigh?

Depending upon how hard you pack you can end up with very varied amounts.

Kasari_M said...

Hello Chef John, I know this question is really irrelevant to your post, I'm sorry.

But I'm currently obsessed with your cheesy sandwich recipe videos (e.g. your tuna melt video and the chicken cordon bleu-wich video).

And I just bought a loaf of this stuff called "pain de campagne" at the grocery store.

And I was just wondering which dishes you would suggest I try making with this bread.

Thank you and please have a great week :)

-Always your fan ALWAYS

Jekaterina Viktorova said...

It would be very nice, if you would also give us measurements for you recepies in grams. I'm sure all your viewers from Europe would love it.

Chef John said...

blogagog, a cup of packed brown sugar should be 8-oz by weight.

Jekaterina, Metric? Never! (unless someone converts them for me) ;)

Chef John said...

Kasari, Google "bruschetta" and you'll get tons of ideas for this bread.

Marty said...

Chef John, but why you wouldn't use metric system?

Jackie Reynolds said...

Weighing ingredients is so much neater as well as more accurate. And quicker.
Jekaterina, there are lots of places inline to convert. And if you have a kitchen scale, it will do that for you, at least mine will.

Chef John said...

Why? Because its too accurate! ;)

Selena Martins said...

I'D love for you to teach how to make a cake with coffee filling, I adore your recipes they are foolproof

Selena Martins said...

Hey chef, I'm from Istanbul, Turkey. I made your bundt cake recipe yesterday and it came out incredibly. I adore your funny and informative videos thank you for doing them

Nickoval said...

I love you, John, but I must follow Christopher Kimball and friends: one cup of flour is 5 oz.

Mish said...

Chef John, you ROCK!

Basil said...

Dear Chef John,

My family is from a baking background.

Here in Europe as you know weight conveys the best baking recipe.

But I've been following your site for a while now and with some cup measurements given to me as a present, Life got easier, or rather faster.

I do still prefer a scale and to be consistent I type phrases like half a cup of butter or 2 cups of flour into wolfram alpa.

Like so: Giving results like this
http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=1+cup+of+flour&dataset=

The source is an average in this case of various weighed wheat flours.

It allows me to adjust the recipes for future use, or when sharing it with a friend who is not in the same kitchen/country.

There are websites that offer the option of switching from us measurements to metric ones.

For example http://www.food.com/recipe/best-blueberry-muffins-cooks-illustrated-318626?oc=linkback

Would it perhaps be worthwhile to implement something similar in your website. Also the quantification option is quite useful.

You've gathered quite a public outside of the US.

Thank you for all the great care anways.